A Vicious Circle

Meanings of “A Vicious Circle”

The phrase “a vicious circle” means a self-prolonged process that keeps returning to the beginning point having no improvement from the time it began. It is a negative or difficult situation that is continuously worsened or maintained rather than resolved. It also refers to a circular argument, having no satisfying solution.

Origin of “A Vicious Circle”

The phrase “a vicious circle” is said to have its initial traces in The Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1792, where it is stated as; “He runs into what is termed by logicians a vicious circle.”

The expression was also taken up by the medical professionals from the early 19th century to describe a condition where one symptom had an impact on the other and the person’s health deteriorates. Later, its figurative use was spotted in Henry James’ Notebooks, published in 1892, where it was used as; “The whole situation works in a kind of inevitable rotary way – in what would be called a vicious circle.”

Since then, it has been used in various ways by many writers.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

This vicious circle by David Henderson

“This vicious circle
This cycle of madness.
I beg for her to stop
In return I get only sadness.
You’re killing your self
Again and again.
Please stop I beg you
As your lover and your friend.
You care more for those things
Than you do for me it seems.”

The poet compares the vicious circle with a cycle of madness that never stops. The continuous spinning wheel of madness kills him, dragging him to the world of sadness. It seems that this cycle does not care about his woes and worries; instead, it cares about the tensions and woes that bring ruination to his life. The phrase has been used as a metaphor for insanity.

Example #2

Vicious Circle by Ronnie Jeffrey Dye

“That wakes the beast from down inside
To avenge my broken pride
It lashes out with blinding rage
And then slinks back into its cage
A vicious circle another page
Only to live another day
Again sweet love does soothe the beast
Make it sleep for now at least
Still I fear the very day
Familiar hurt is sent my way
And calls upon the beast to rise
From deep dark secrets
Kept down inside….”

These lines occur at the end of the poem written by an American based poet. She believes that life’s struggles awaken a beast in her that seems to explode with rage, but it again slinks back to its place and goes to sleep. However, the vicious circle of this waking and sleeping continues. Therefore, she has used this phrase as a metaphor for the inner beast of a person.

Example #3

Vicious Circle by Jaideep Arora

“Insanely enough my enemy is my bed,
I lay and close my eyes and it puts ur pictures in my head,
Does it want me asleep, or it wants me awake?
Coz at times I drift to sleep and at times I see dawn break.

The way I remember you are still the same,
And acknowledging this I feel insane,
Truth be told, there’s no stand I hold,
Memories taste better like the wine when it’s old,

These two stanzas occur in this beautiful poem.  They do not show the phrase’s direct use; however, implied meanings make the speaker’s point clear. The first stanza narrates the perplexed condition of the speaker, who finds himself caught in a never-ending dilemma. Unfortunately, his past never allows him to enjoy a soothing sleep. Whenever he tries to sleep, his beloved’s face starts ruining his night. However, the second stanza reflects the connotative use of the phrase, where the choice of words suggests that the speaker is caught in the vicious circle of the past that never allows him to enjoy the glory of the present time. Therefore, the phrase has been shown used as an extended metaphor for time.

Example #4

Vicious Circle by Wilbur Smith

The novel narrates the story of an ill-fated man whose happy life is caught in the vicious circle of crime and negativity. Hector Cross, the protagonist, leaves his risky war career when he marries Hazel Bannock. Unfortunately, his new life does not get well, and he soon discovers that his old enemy is trying to throw trouble on his way. In vengeance, he builds his own army to fight back, intending to protect his family. Soon he discovers that he has been receiving threats not from his enemy but from Hazel. These dark secrets and the curiosity to find the enemy’s agenda lead Hector to a series of crimes. The book explains the meaning of the phrase that enmity trapped the protagonist into a vicious circle.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Like many other poor farmers, Orio was also caught in the vicious circle of poverty. He tried hard to make ends meet but failed to satisfy the needs of his family.”

Example #2: “The company fails to produce new jobs because the business is not expanding.  There are fewer opportunities for growth in the company. Unfortunately, this is the vicious circle the company is trapped in.”

 Example #3: “Cheating and lying are like vicious circles we create for ourselves. Once you start, there is no going back.”

create a vicious circle as you have to cheat others and lie to them to cover the old cheating and lies.”

Example #4: My friend’s family was caught in a vicious circle after they had a baby with severe medical problems. The baby kept falling sick all the time and they found themselves more in the hospital than at home.”

Example #5: “Anxiety and depression are like vicious circles. If you do not deal with it, they keep coming back.”